December 28, 2005
Like the similarly themed The Machinist (2004), The Jacket (which was released in the same year) is all about the fractured perception of its protagonist. Jack Starks (Brody) is a U.S. soldier badly wounded in the first Persian Gulf War that resulted in amnesia. He returns to the States and witnesses a murder of a cop but all of the evidence points to him. He is found not guilty by reason of insanity and thrown into a state hospital where he is at the mercy of attendants who bound him in a straight jacket, drug him and is then shoved into a body-length cabinet like some kind of human file folder.
While in the state hospital, Jack befriends a fellow patient that has definite shades of the Brad Pitt-Bruce Willis relationship in Twelve Monkeys (1995). Jack is subjected to some kind of weird, sensory deprivation technique by his doctor (Kristofferson). And like Willis’ character, he becomes a time traveler of sorts as another straightjacketed trip into the box transports him to 2007 where he meets a waitress (a grungy Knightley). She tells him that he died back in 1993. Is this really happening or is it all in his head, a part of his fragmented mind? Jack bounces back and forth between 1992 and 2007 trying to find out how he dies.
Adrien Brody is quite good as the tormented and perpetually disoriented soldier trying desperately to make sense of what is happening to him. With his expressive eyes he conveys the fear and helplessness that his character experiences while being trapped in the straightjacket. Keira Knightley demonstrates that she’s got some acting chops with this gritty role. She adopts a decent American accent and plays a tough, sometimes abrasive character but with sensitive side that made me think of Kate Winslet’s performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Knightley delivers a nicely nuanced performance that suits the movie well.
Is Jack delusional or is all this really happening? And if he is truly deluded, when did it start and how? The film tends to go back and forth many times so that one has to pay close attention to what’s going on. In this sense, we become as disoriented as Jack and empathize with his plight. While The Jacket is hardly original (it comes across as hybrid of Twelve Monkeys and Jacob’s Ladder), it is an engaging, entertaining thriller with a strong performance by Brody.
“The Jacket: Project History and Deleted Scenes.” Director John Maybury was approached by Steven Soderbergh who admired his work. Maybury had been working on the fringes and now got to work with name actors and a significant budget. The screenwriter Massy Taojedin introduces the cut footage and puts it into context. Maybury and Taojedin come across as very intelligent and eloquent. Obviously, a lot of thought went into making this movie. Maybury is refreshingly honest and confesses that he didn’t want Keira Knightley in her role but the studio pressured him. After he met the actress and read with her, he changed his mind.
“The Look of ‘The Jacket.’” Maybury was influenced by silent and avant garde films, in particular the filmmaker Stan Brakhage.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.